I hate places like this; hot, cramped with humanity, all vying for the eye of the girl who was more than off limits. It was Las Vegas; and the Palms Casino opened the newest incarnation of the Playboy Club; and it lived up to its predecessor's legend. There were more men than women in the club, each one hell bent on hitting on their server; some barely dressed mid-twenty something women, who didn't mind degrading herself for tips. Most of these women, in the 1970's, ended up with a nice fat sugar daddy and never had to want for much, if anything. And all this happened with Women's Lib flying all over the radar, and the glass ceiling about to shatter. How far had women come in thirty years? Pretty far, unless you were seated in this club where it seemed time hadn't passed more than a few seconds. Even the music playing was disco-era. God help me.
"Come on, man. It's the Playboy Club! The least you could do is act like it's a big deal," my cousin, Emmett, announced as if he had won the lottery. Fact was, we paid a hefty cover charge -and the elusive "Key" was no longer needed - for the 'privilege' of entering this cesspool of flesh.
"Right." I tried to sound enthusiastic, but the fact was, once you had been to Heff's, the club was just a joke. Yeah, that's right. I'd been to the Playboy Mansion, and I wasn't impressed. I wasn't impressed here, either.
"Man, you got to relax at some point. Enjoy the moment, find some piece of ass, tease her with your discostick, and just let loose for once in your life. You're in Vegas, baby!"
"Don't remind me," I said with an obvious irritation in my voice.
"Bro, we're here for another four months, it's going to be nothing but sun, tits, ass, and money."
"Again, don't remind me."
"Listen, you've wanted to make a name for yourself in finance, and this is your chance. Every Maloof project has been over budget. Between you and me, this thing will be on time, and on budget. We can't lose!"
"It's Vegas, Emmett. The house always wins." I shot him a look that told him I really wasn't in the mood, and he backed off -a bit.
Emmett and I had been selected to oversee the building of the latest Maloof mega-casino in Vegas. The previous company, that had been on the project since the start eighteen months ago, had been fired for going too far over budget. The Maloof organization asked around for a replacement, and found us. We were cheap, experienced, available, and stupid enough to accept the job. We knew we had a tough road ahead of us budget wise, but we'd already made a dent in the overspending and we had only been on the job four months. And while the pay was insane, I felt as if we had sold ourselves to the devil himself. Proof of that was the fact we were sitting in the bar we were in.
"When is that friend of yours going to show his mug anyways?" Emmett asked, taking a long pull from his beer.
"Jasper said he would be here as soon he dropped his girlfriend off at her apartment. She's a concierge somewhere. At least I think she is." I shifted the ice in my gin and tonic, and silently begged for my cell phone to ring, wanting it to be Jasper calling our night short.
"How do you know him again?"
"Our parents went to school together. His mom, Tanya, was my dad's best friend in college. Until he met my mom, that is."
"Isn't that the shit? Only your dad could pull off having a chick as his best friend. Is she hot?" Emmett asked, more with his dick then his brain.
"I guess so. I'm not into red heads so I wouldn't know."
"Speaking of red heads, check out the rack on that fine, young thing!" Emmett said, his focus shifting over my shoulder to the craps table a few feet away. Standing impossibly tall, lean, and fierce, was a blonde haired woman; her ass hanging out of her bunny suit, her breasts about to break free.
"Em, that's a blonde," I offered, not seeing what it was that was making his tongue hang out of his mouth.
"Hot, that's what she is. Twenty bucks says I can tap that ass before we leave town."
"I am not about to wager on the sexual activities of what is probably a very nice person. You? Anytime. But not her."
"Eddie, you can't keep your dick in your pants for the rest of your life," he said, clapping me on the back, raising my irritation with the action.
"Nor do I plan to. I just don't see the need to sleep with everything that I see, unlike some people I know." I took a long swig from my glass, emptying the contents, and placing the glass back on the table.
"I'm only trying to sample what I can before I get tagged, bagged, and stuffed," he said before launching a booming laugh.
"Nice. Would you like everyone to think that we're all mountain men up in Seattle?" I asked, half kidding.
"Nah, but it couldn't hurt to let the ladies take a ride on the Emmett Love Train, now could it?" He boomed with laughter again, and I shook my head in response; a slight smirk breaking on my face.
I looked away from him to scan the room and take in what little I could from the scene before me. It wasn't like sitting at a coffee shop in Seattle where you could people watch for hours. At least there, there was something you could take from the people watching. Here, it was all superficial bullshit; wanting the same thing – The Sin City memory. Funny thing about memories- they don't go away, they are always real, and they can haunt you whether you want them to or not.
I scanned over the craps tables, the roulette wheel, the poker and blackjack games, and finally the slots. I never understood gambling. If you wanted to part with your money, there were a good number of charities that were in need of money, they would love the scratch these people were plugging away without a second thought. But it was Vegas, and when in Vegas, you were expected to take a chance and see if Lady Luck would smile on you.
"Hey man, where the hell is our Bunny? What was her name, Sara?" Emmett asked, turning his shoulder towards me. His eyes were too busy taking in Busty Bunny to be bothered to make eye contact.
"Sahara," I corrected, "and I don't know."
And then I felt it. I felt the presence of something greater than any force I'd ever felt, and I was in Italy when the last earthquake hit. I went through Katrina, and what I was feeling was something far more engulfing, more encompassing, and completely consuming. I was almost afraid to see what the cause of it was.
"Hi. I'm your Bunny, Isabella. How can I serve you?"
I felt a chill pass over me; the sound of her voice grabbed my soul and didn't let go. I was almost terrified to face her, but to not face her would have been worse. How a voice alone could make me feel all that I was feeling was beyond me. My gut told me to ignore her, to be dismissive towards her; treat her like the hired help she was. But something deeper within me said something quite different, and whatever it was, I wasn't privy to. I just knew I would spend the rest of my life searching for the voice that called to me if I didn't acknowledge her.
I shifted in my seat, and brought my eyes to her taut stomach, heaving bosom, past her collar bone and neck, and saw the most beautiful face I'd ever seen in my life. If it wasn't for the impossibly tight, black bunny suit and faux ears atop her head, I would have sworn she was an angel. I wanted to say something, but nothing came to mind. I was never completely useless when it came to women, but this heavenly creature was something else.
"Thank God you arrived!" Emmett said, over exaggerating his relief. "We've been parched since Sara-"
"Sahara," I interjected, embarrassed at his behavior, which wasn't new; the behavior or the embarrassment.
"Right, anyways, Isabella, I'll have another beer, and my man over here will take another gin and tonic."
"Do you have a preferred brand, sir?" she asked me, her eyes made contact with mine and I forgot to breathe.
"Uh-um, no- house is fine." I wasn't sure if I was answering the gin question or where I would rather be with her than the bar.
"Very good, sir." She smiled a tight smile, like it was almost killing her to.
I watched her walk away, clearing the corner as she went to the bar, and I felt an immediate pain in my chest as she disappeared. I knew she would be back; I'd ordered a drink and that was the guarantee. But then what? What would I do when I had to leave?
I felt a fast buzz in the inside pocket of my suit coat, and pulled it out to see who was calling. It was text from Jasper advising me that he was not coming out, that he'd opted for staying with his girlfriend. Great. The text I had been waiting for the entire night showed up when I least wanted to leave.
I let Emmett know the development, and he did what he does best. He went back to staring at the ass of Busty Bunny as she worked her way through the tables. I wanted to smack him on the back of his head, but it wouldn't have made a difference. Once he was locked on a target, it was like a heat seeking missile; I almost felt sorry for Busty. Almost.
"Here you are, sir." I heard her voice speak, and the air once again left my lungs. As she reached in front of me, I could smell her body; a delicious mix of cucumbers and melon, and a shiver raced over the back of my shoulders when her hand grazed mine as she collected the empty high ball glass.
I was sure she felt something too, as she flinched ever so slightly and made eye contact with me, if only for a fraction of a second. And then Emmett ruined the moment.
"Baby, you have made my night!" he boomed as he took the long neck from her hand. She creased her brow ever so slightly before the same strained smile returned.
"Anything else, sir?" she asked.
"Nope, good here. Eddie?" he asked me as he poked his elbow into my side.
"Edward," I reminded him with a slight huff, "and no thank you."
"Very good. I'll be back around soon if you change your mind." Her words were guarded, but almost seemed to be hinting at something that I was just too thick headed to understand.
I spent the next twenty minutes, give or take, watching her glide throughout the bar, smiling warmly at some tables, while others received a fake smile, but none of them ever received the look she'd given me. I was certain of that fact. Her heel got caught a few times causing her to trip slightly, but she quickly recovered and shook her head in obvious frustration. Well, it was obvious to me. I wondered how many people in the bar it was obvious to, or were actually watching her the way I was.
I finished my drink and gave a quick look at the time. It was nearly 1:00 a.m., and I needed to get to bed. I had a meeting at nine, and I needed to be on point for it. I leaned forward to let Emmett know I was heading out as soon as I paid my tab, nearly shouting over the suddenly loud music.
"Come on man, you can't leave me here when I haven't had a chance to hit on Legs over there, can you?"
"I can and am going to. And you should head out too, you're on site at eight," I reminded him, hoping I didn't sound like a nag.
"Nah, sleep is for the weak. I think I might play a few hands. Girl seems to be working the blackjack table."
"Girl?" I asked, but I knew who he meant.
"Seriously man, that is one hot piece of ass."
"You do realize she is a person with feelings, emotions, people that love her ..."
"Fuck that man. That is the hottest piece of ass I've seen in my life," Emmett continued.
I shook my head and was about to comment when I felt something soft and slightly fuzzy brush against my neck, and it caused me to reach up and swat at whatever it was.
"Oh! I'm sorry, sir!" My angel's voice said as my hand made contact with her puffy white tail and her ass.
"No! Don't be - worried. It's nothing. Sorry I smacked your, uh, you- shit. Sorry." I stammered about, feeling like I was in junior high school all over again and had just inadvertently brushed a girls boob.
"I'm really sorry, sir. I'm trying- I mean- I just tripped, sir."
"Yeah, I noticed. Does it happen often?" I asked, not sure why I did. As soon as the words tumbled from my mouth, I saw her blush.
"Yeah, I'm not the most graceful Bunny, am I?" she asked as the blush full in her face carried over to her neck and chest.
"I wouldn't say that. But I would venture a guess you're the nicest." I said. I had no idea what came over me, but I felt that I needed to take care of her, and to relieve her from her state of embarrassment.
"Thank you, sir," she said, and she sighed heavily. For as much as I wanted to have non-sexual thoughts, my peripheral vision caught the rise and fall of her breasts, straining against the tight black fabric.
"Edward," I offered, trying to relax her as I saw the hint of nervousness in her eyes.
"Sorry, but as long I'm a 'bunny', you are 'sir'," she offered, and unless I was delirious, she nearly cringed saying it. It was almost as if she wanted to say something different, perhaps more personal.
"I understand. I don't like it, but I understand." I wanted to reach out and touch her, to feel the softness of her skin but I knew how inappropriate it was. I wanted to make sure she was real, and not just something brought on by the neon and noise; not a personal oasis I'd created to survive the night, not to mention being stuck in Vegas for all these months.
"Thank you, sir. Can I get you anything else?" Her eyes searched mine, and it almost seemed as though she was once again trying to tell me something I just couldn't pick up on.
"Yeah, I'm going to be leaving, so I need my tab." I hated what I said. True or not, she was the waitress and I was a patron, but I would have given anything for that not to be the way I met her.
"Bullshit. Put it on mine. Eddie, tonight's on me." Emmett brushed his hand in the air, dismissing any argument I might have made.
"Yup, tomorrow is on you though. And I plan on drinking my weight in shots. Just so you're warned."
"Great," I said, looking back to Isabella, "you would think DNA would have been more kind to me, but not so. I apologize for my cousin's poor behavior."
The corner of her mouth raised ever so slightly, a warm smile started to radiate. "I understand that. We all have our challenges."
"That we do. Well, I don't want to keep you. Thank you. Being here tonight was a lost cause until you showed up." Hell no, I did not just say that to her! Did I?
"You too, sir," she quietly replied, her words almost being lost in the booming music, but I still heard them. And she blushed a bit deeper before she started off.
"Isabella?" I called after her, not sure what I was going to say, but I knew I wanted to keep looking at her and keep her as near as I could for as long as I could.
"Yes sir?" she asked, turning back towards me, her chest heaved again, and she bit the outer edge of her lower lip, nibbling on the bright, glossy, red lipstick.
"I-when- uh, what-" I stammered. I couldn't get my head around what the hell I was trying to ask her.
"He wants to know when you're working again," Emmett said, his voice just loud enough for both of us to hear.
"Um, I'm off for the next week, but I will be back next Thursday." She seemed unsure if she should be giving me the information, reluctant even. And for the obvious reason that she was at work. But there was something in her eyes that said she wanted me to know - but maybe I was dreaming. I hoped I wasn't. But there was something there, under the surface, hiding beneath her actions and words that told me she wanted me to know.
"I'll see you Thursday," I said as I offered a warm smile at her.
She bit her lower lip again, and I could see her leg move like it wanted to bring her back to me, but she stopped herself from moving. She searched the floor before she brought her eyes back to mine.
"I'll look for you then."
Fuck it was going to be a long week. I'd just seen, met, and talked to an angel and now I had to wait a week before I could see her again. And I knew then that the next seven days would kill me. Slowly, but kill me all the same.